Come, ring out our joy to the Lord; hail the God who saves us, alleluia.
Year: C(II). Psalm week: 1. Liturgical Colour: Green.
In other years: St Cyril of Alexandria (370 - 444)
Alexandria was the largest city in the ancient world. Rather like Los Angeles, it was a sprawling mixture of races and creeds; and it was a byword for the violence of its sectarian politics, whether of Greeks against Jews or of orthodox Christians against heretics. Cyril began his career as a worthy follower of this tradition. He succeeded his uncle as bishop of Alexandria in 412, and promptly solved a number of outstanding problems by closing the churches of the Novatian heretics and expelling the Jews from the city. This caused trouble and led to an ongoing quarrel with the Imperial governor of the city and to murderous riots. It is not for this part of his life that St Cyril is celebrated.
In 428, Nestorius, the new Patriarch of Constantinople (and hence one of the most important bishops in the world) made statements that could be interpreted as denying the divinity of Christ. The dual nature – human and divine – has always been hard for us to accept or understand, and if it seems easy it is only because we have not thought about it properly. Those who dislike problems have had two responses: to deny the human nature of Christ or to deny his divinity: and either leads to disaster, since both deny the Incarnation and hence the divinisation of human nature.
The resulting battle was as unedifying as most of the early fights that defined the shape of Christianity, because both sides were concerned to defend something that they saw as being of infinite and eternal importance. If it had been a question of power politics, of who got what post and what revenues, the matter could have been settled quietly – but this was not about power, it was important, and the victory was more important than the methods. Seen from fifteen centuries later, the proceedings seem melodramatic and absurd: Cyril arriving at the Council of Ephesus accompanied by fifty bishops wielding baseball bats (or the fifth-century equivalent); the Emperor, burdened with a sister who supported Cyril and a wife who supported Nestorius; the ratification of the contradictory decrees of both the council that supported Cyril and the council that supported Nestorius; the imprisonment of both bishops; the bribery...
To revere Cyril of Alexandria is not to approve the methods he used: he fought according to the conventions of the time, and with its weapons. But he never sought to destroy Nestorius or any of his opponents, only to win the day for the truth of salvation: would that controversies today were fought with such pure motives.
After the fireworks of the Council, Cyril was moderate and conciliatory, and sought to reconcile to the Church any Nestorians who were willing to engage in dialogue. It is largely through his efforts that we can celebrate (even if we still fail to understand completely) the two natures of Christ, and that we can address Mary as “Mother of God”. It is as a theologian rather than as a politician that Cyril is honoured.
So let us give thanks that Cyril lived, and let us enjoy the fruits of his achievement; but although we ought all to share his pure zeal for the truth, let us not hurry to imitate his more vigorous methods!
Other saints: Blessed Mary Josephine Catanea (1894-1948)
26 Jun (where celebrated)
Josephine Catanea was born in Naples on February 18, 1894. She entered the Carmelite community of Santa Maria Ponti Rossi and made her solemn profession August 6, 1933. In 1945 was elected prioress, an office she held until her death. She endured the painful trials of illness and persecution by abandoning herself to the will of God. All who sought her help were inspired by her deep spirituality, humility and simplicity, as she inspired hope and faith in God and in the Blessed Virgin Mary. She died in Naples on March 14, 1948.
About the author of the Second Reading in today's Office of Readings:
Second Reading: Pope St Paul VI (1897-1978)
Giovanni Battista Montini was born on 26 September 1897 in the village of Concesio, in the province of Brescia, Lombardy. He was ordained priest on 29 May 1920 and worked in the Roman Curia, the Vatican civil service, until he was made Archbishop of Milan in 1954. He was elected Pope on 21 June 1963, successfully saw the Vatican Council through to its completion, promoted the renewal of the Church’s life and especially of the liturgy. He also promoted ecumenical dialogue and the proclamation of the Gospel to the modern world. He died on 6 August 1978.
He was canonized by Pope Francis in 2018.
Liturgical colour: green
The theological virtue of hope is symbolized by the colour green, just as the burning fire of love is symbolized by red. Green is the colour of growing things, and hope, like them, is always new and always fresh. Liturgically, green is the colour of Ordinary Time, the orderly sequence of weeks through the year, a season in which we are being neither single-mindedly penitent (in purple) nor overwhelmingly joyful (in white).
|Mid-morning reading (Terce)||1 John 4:16 ©|
We ourselves have known and put our faith in God’s love towards ourselves. God is love and anyone who lives in love lives in God, and God lives in him.
|Noon reading (Sext)||Galatians 6:7-8 ©|
What a man sows, he reaps. If he sows in the field of self-indulgence he will get a harvest of corruption out of it; if he sows in the field of the Spirit he will get from it a harvest of eternal life.
|Afternoon reading (None)||(Galatians 6:9-10) ©|
We must never get tired of doing good, and then we shall get our harvest at the proper time. While we have the chance, we must do good to all, and especially to our brothers in the faith.